Like most pre-teen girls in the mid-90’s I was obsessed with the Baby-Sitter’s Club series. I had an entire bookcase dedicated to those soft pastel paperbacks, and would steamroll my way through at least two titles each week. There was a lot to love about that series: the friendship, the adventures, the drama. But most of all, I loved Claudia’s outfits.
Claudia Kishi was the Vice President of the Baby-Sitter’s Club and my favourite character from the series. She was passionate about art and had a strong creative streak which was evident in the clothes she chose to wear. Most of the books featured a detailed description of at least one of Claudia’s outfits, and I lived for the paragraphs that would reveal what sartorial genius Claudia had chosen to weave on that particular day. Apparently I’m not the only one who felt this way, as a number of my friends have said the same, and there is even a (now defunct) blog called What Claudia Wore, which was devoted to celebrating Claudia’s outfits.
Given that I was deep into my Baby-Sitter’s Club phase during my formative years, it’s no surprise that Claudia’s flair for fashion heavily influenced my own personal style. I took her passion for fashion and ran with it. I’ve recently fallen down a nostalgia rabbit hole, with the release of Netflix’s Baby-Sitter’s Club series and the Claudia Kishi Club documentary. This has prompted some reflection on the specific ways that my own personal style was shaped by Claudia’s and the parallels that exist between my wardrobe and hers.
I’m a sucker for a themed outfit. I like my outfit to tell a story, to express a particular mood. Like Claudia, I use my clothing as a way to wear my emotions and interests on my sleeve, literally. One thing I always enjoyed about Claudia’s outfits were the details, the little touches that she added to draw everything together. For example, on her first day working at the radio station, she wore a tuxedo jacket with a silver musical note pinned to the lapel. She’d choose a theme and every single item she wore was cohesive and on-point. And that’s something that I often do. My outfits are more pop-cultured centered than Claudia’s but I do try to tell a story with my clothing; choosing prints, pieces and accessories that team with the theme.
Most of Claudia’s outfits featured incredible earrings. The fact that Claudia had three ear piercings (two holes in her right ear and one in her left) was the epitome of cool to my ten-year-old self. When I was finally allowed to get my ears pierced, I immediately began collecting unique earrings so that I could emulate Claudia’s style. My obsession with earrings has not waned over the years, and I have quite an impressive collection these days. Like Claudia, I love rocking big, bold styles and favour earrings that look like other things (earrings in the shape of animals, fruit, flowers) and earrings made from unconventional materials (buttons, guitar picks). I also regularly take a leaf out of Claudia’s book and wear mismatched earrings, or sometimes a single statement earring. There is no law that says your earrings have to match.
Claudia often let her artistic nature spill out into her wardrobe, with clothing that she had customised herself and hand-made jewellery. I too love wearing things that I’ve knit and crocheted for myself, screen-printed tee shirts and painted sneakers. If you make or customise your own clothes, it’s a way to make sure you have something nobody else will be wearing. Most importantly, you can create items that perfectly suit your personality and style.
Second hand love
Unlike her best friend, Stacey McGill (who preferred designer fashions) Claudia was always somewhat thrifty with her baby-sitting earnings. While she dedicated a good chunk of her budget to new clothes, she was thrifty and shopped at second-hand and consignment stores. She mixed and matched her second-hand finds with fashion items from the Mall to create a look that’s completely her own. This is pretty much exactly how I like to shop. From the age of 13 I’ve been obsessed with vintage styles, and in high school I started thrift shopping because I could find amazing vintage pieces for a couple of bucks apiece. My love of thrifting has persisted into my thirties and shows no signs of slowing. Like Claudia, I’ve never been particularly fussed with looking like everyone else, and get excited when I find something I know nobody else has.
When I think back to how many hours of my childhood I spent immersed in Claudia’s world, it seems inevitable that she would leave an indelible imprint on my style and personality. The Baby-Sitters Club were a part of my life at the point where I was allowed to choose my own clothes, when I began to develop agency around my personal style. Claudia was the perfect non-conformist style icon who expressed herself boldly through fashion. In many ways I’m grateful to Claudia for giving me permission to play with clothes, to try new things and for igniting one of my most joyful creative outlets- fashion.